Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The ethics of breath

Just a quick thought today. There is an aspect of everyday life that has always intrigued me, and this is our compulsion to hurt others for various reasons. I have been reading Primo Levi's "The Drowned and the Saved", and in it he talks movingly about the German's use of 'useless violence', expressions of harm to which the intent is simply the cause of harm itself. Not pain inflicted for a reason, merely to make the point of one race's superiority over another.

I could not avoid considering this when, after an interview for a job today, I became peckish for a spot of lunch. I settled in a Wolverhampton eatery from which I ordered a cheese, pineapple and chives panini (odd, I know. Also, I didn't receive any chives. I wasn't sure about complaining because I considered it possible that the chives were hidden beneath the cheese and pineapple and were transmitting no taste). A woman entered, asked for an ashtray and started smoking. The two elderly ladies on the next table stared at her warily and coughed telegraphically, to no avail.

What armoury of thought enters your head as you light up in a public space? This is fascinating because of the range of responses to issues of passive smoking. There is the denial of passive smoking's health risks, which although preposterous, as clearly the smoke is an irritant, at least it does not place the smoker in a position of not caring for the health of others. And there are those who have the habit, the compulsion, and who find it normal to smoke publicly. We cannot dislike people for growing up in the very different British culture that only precedes ours by a few decades, and such arguments are seemingly evidently understandable.
The important question is, what about those who understand the unpleasantness of such smoking, and that they shouldn't be doing what they are, and who have known this from the very start of their use of nicotinic stimulants, but express the idea that they don't care about the health of others? These people, predominantly those much younger who have grown up with conscientous anti-smoking childrens' telivision, started smoking knowing what it entailed - the harm of themselves and of others. Surely, this is just an example of 'useless violence', using air itself as the medium through which to communicate a rasping punch to the airways of others?

This has led me to consider studying such arguments as a PhD thesis. If you think this makes me a veritable hero of today's consensus-driven meritocracy, press the red button now, and cast your vote on our interactive service! You may also view this blog post from an array of different ideological angles if you subscribe to our premium service.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like a good idea. What do you consider to be responsible for such behaviour?

12:33 PM  
Blogger fucking diddums said...

I have your address written somewhere, and a shitty old email that I doubt even works.

I wonder why you did finally decide to stop talking to me, but it bothers me more, that I still care to know why.

And this is useless isn't it? I'm sure you know how to find me if you wish to.

6:46 PM  
Blogger Juliet is Bleeding... said...

I smoke, though never in public spots. I'll go outside - I suppose that's still public but I do try and stand alone. I like alone. So everyone's a winner.

To be honest, I've never heard of a smoker who doesn't acknowledge that non-smokers don't like breathing in noxious, second-hand fumes. But what I do see happening is - with the introduction of non-smoking areas in so many places - the rise of smokers that feel they now do have "the right" to smoke freely in areas which allow it.

I see that as the problem. The fact that there are demarcated areas for smokers and non. The only way to stop the effect is to make every indoor location non-smoking. Which they are doing.

I've been a smoker in Dublin and NYC - oh yeah, smoked all over the world, I have - and they both had the no-smoking-indoors rule. Didn't phase the smokers; non-smokers happy; peace and love everywhere.

Yanks and pikeys are intolerable, though.

10:14 AM  
Blogger TokenArtStudent said...

what you have to consider is that smokers who have grown with this anti-smoking "propaganda" (of sorts)and still choose to smoke in public may be doing so not to purposly inflict this notion of "useless violence" but possibly to entertain a notion of rebellion and/or excise of human rights/free speech. they perhaps see the right to smoke as a human right for them, and therefore see the anti-smoking rule as bad and will rebel against it at any chance. also - people of this age (they will be young if they grew up with the anti-smoking stuff) will entertain a rebellion more because of the ideologies of youth. (it is unfortunatly a true sterotype that the younger you are, the more ideological, however that does not me you are more likely to be 'wrong' if you are young, for example, im 17 and i dont think my beliefs are ideological)

just food for thought.

10:46 PM  
Blogger News is Good said...

Most smokers do not deny that their smoke harms themselves and those who breath it. It is parently obvious that it harms others - it smells, it makes them cough, their eyes water, and so on. I am not bringing up notions of 'environmental second-hand smoke' which scientists and tobacco companies argue over, I am talking about direct, within-a-room smoking, or smoking around other people outside.

The notion of the 'rebellious' smoker does not sit with my concern of violence. This is because it is not seen as rebellious to punch people randomly in the street, it is seen as criminal. Smokers can rebel all they want, but when it harms other people it becomes something other than an act of rebellion.

IF a smoker understands the harmfulness of their smoke THEN how do they account for their actions to themselves and to others? How can they continue doing it knowing that it is a 'personal' and 'lifestyle' choice/habit that affects others detrimentally also? That is what I am interested in, psychologically and morally.

Is there a convincing argument to say that smoking is not an example of 'useless violence' in the example that I just exampled?

9:14 PM  

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